Title: André the Giant
Director: Jason Hehir
Starring: André the Giant, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan
Runtime: 85 mins
What It Is: This documentary takes an honest look at the life and career of professional wrestler and actor André Roussimoff, better known as the incomparable André the Giant.
What We Think: “He was not the most articulate man in the world. He spoke in other ways,” posits pro-wrestling announcer Gene Okerlund as he reflects on one of the most recognizable figures in the entire industry. This statement displays what is both good and bad about this documentary. It’s not hard to figure out what made André Roussimoff such a dominating presence, and for that reason, a lot has already been said about who “the Giant” was. Devoting an entire film to explaining his often tragic and fascinating life by using a bunch of talking heads seems less like the deep-dive long-time wrestling fans want this film to be, but more of a convenient collection of anecdotes, trivia, and admittedly heart-warming vignettes. In its 1 hour and 15-minute runtime, the film struggles to say something new about one of the most famous faces in the world. That is, however, not to say that there aren’t any redeeming things in this film – it’s still entertaining to see these talking heads, well, talk. By collecting the experiences and musings of the people who knew André intimately (and in the case of André’s family, those who should have known him intimately), the film creates a coherent flow, filtered and rose-tinted it may be. But perhaps the film’s biggest strength is its propensity to treat its subject matter with reverence. It’s a little over halfway through the film when acromegaly, the condition that led André to be the giant that he was, is even mentioned. Technically, that’s what Gene Okerlund was alluding to: the one reason we remember André to this day is his size. Everything about André’s being revolves around this – his capacity to binge drink to an unspeakable extent, his role in launching the entire industry of “sports entertainment,” his unfortunate incapability to ever blend in a crowd. But to limit a giant’s identity to a single facet is to cheapen who he was. The film knows this and tries, in its own uneven way, to avoid coming back to that well over and over again. Somehow, with material largely composed of stuff that most people already know, the film actually still manages to be worth your while.
Our Grade: B+, If you know André from his legendary contributions to the world of pro-wrestling or simply as the face slapped on your OBEY beanie, this documentary will be a great substitute to browsing his Wikipedia page. Regardless, this film will serve as a fine viewing, even though you might wish it was willing to get a bit rougher.